Thu, 27 Apr 06
Last month saw ETA declare a permanent ceasefire. Does this herald a property boom for the region?
After over four decades of terrorist activity, the Basque separatist movement ETA declared a permanent ceasefire on 24th March this year. Despite many in Spain questioning how long the peace will last, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has recently stated his belief that the declaration is genuine.
In its campaign for self-determination and independence for the Basque region in the north of Spain, ETA has killed more than 800 people over the past four decades. However, in recent years, it has limited its activity to small bombs and extortion.
Surprisingly, such activity has failed to significantly dent either the Spanish property market or the regional economy of the Basque region. Colin Barrett Treen from overseas finance specialist Blue Horizons explained to Overseas Property Professional Magazine (OPP):
"Indeed, ETA activities started in the late 1960’s at around the same time as the Spanish property boom also began. Over the intervening years there has been some limited impact on the regional economy in the Basque region; however, today the Basque country is one of the richest regions in all of Spain."
Following Belfast's lead?
Since the IRA's ceasefire, Belfast has enjoyed both an upsurge in tourist levels and property prices. The Good Friday agreement included significant redevelopment projects and Belfast is now the second most popular city in the UK for short breaks ahead of London and Edinburgh.
With its popular Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, stunning landscapes and superb food, particularly in the chic seaside resort of San Sebastian, the Basque Country has no shortage of tourist attractions. Does this mean that the Basque Country will soon be enjoying a similar pattern of growth to Belfast?
John McManus, the editor of Living Spain magazine seems to think so. He told OPP: "It is great news for the Basque region of Spain as more and more people are turning to Northern Spain as an alternative to the traditional costas. Both Galicia and Asturias have seen big rises in tourism and interest in property, helped by low cost airlines easyJet and Ryanair flying in to the regions and increased coverage in the media."
But the impact of ETA's ceasefire on the wider Spanish property market beyond the Basque Country will probably be minimal. Peter Mitry, managing director of Coast to Coast Properties S.L, told OPP: "Having now been on the Costa del Sol for 10 years, most of which has been spent in real estate, I cannot honestly recall one single client refer to ETA as a reason for not buying." He added, "ETA is a long way down most peoples list of worries. Believe me, with 99% of buyers ETA is not even a consideration."
The citizens of the Basque Country believe that housing is the main problem of the region, according to a poll commissioned by the Basque Government before ETA's ceasefire.
40% of those polled were concerned about housing putting it ahead of even terrorism and violence (mentioned by 37%) and unemployment (mentioned by 36%).
Despite employment worries, most Basques think the local economy is going well. Two thirds of those polled think the economic situation in the Basque Country is good or quite good.
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